Technology & Science

Nokia unveils music-playing, touch-screen cellphone

Nokia has launched its first touch-screen smartphone that plays music, adding another potential competitor to Apple Inc.'s iPhone. But in North America it's Research In Motion's anticipated touch-screen BlackBerry that's expected take on the popular Apple device.

Nokia has launched its first touch-screen smartphone that plays music, adding another potential competitor to Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

But in North America, it's Research In Motion's anticipated touch-screen BlackBerry that's expected to take on the popular Apple device.

Even though the Finnish Nokia has beaten Research In Motion to market with its touch-screen phone, it's not likely to "make a big splash" in North America, PC Magazine's Sascha Segan said Thursday.

"This is a defensive play in Nokia's core European and Asian markets against the iPhone as a music and video device," said Segan, lead analyst for mobile devices at the technology publication.

Storm takes on iPhone

In North America, it's RIM's anticipated BlackBerry touch screen, nicknamed the Storm — and previously known as Thunder — that will take on the iPhone, not the Nokia touch-screen mobile phone, Segan said from New York City.

The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic touch-screen mobile phone was launched Thursday in London and is aimed at consumers. It isn't expected to be available in the United States until 2009, and will cost about $400 US. No Canadian launch date was available.

While Nokia is the world's largest cellphone maker, it doesn't have a good relationship with North American telecom carriers, Segan said.

Segan said he expects the Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM to unveil its touch-screen BlackBerry smartphone this month, and it will likely be carried by Verizon in the United States and by Telus in Canada.

"The Storm is going to be pushed very heavily by these carriers as an alternative to the iPhone."

Rogers has the only networks in Canada to run the new 3G iPhone and AT&T is the exclusive iPhone carrier in the United States.

On the music front, the Nokia touch screen will soon have a music service that will allow users to download as many tracks as they want for free and keep them for a year, and users also will be able to purchase music on the phone, Segan said.

Nokia touch screen intro a 'defensive move': analyst

Analyst Nick Agostino said he isn't expecting the Nokia touch screen to make a big impact in Canada or the United States. He called its introduction a "defensive move" because the cellphone maker is losing share in the smartphone market.

"In North America, I didn't see anything about the device that's a wow factor," said Agostino of Research Capital Corp. in Toronto. "Everything about this device has Apple written all over it."

He noted the iPhone has a proven track record with Apple's iTunes and what would distinguish a touchscreen BlackBerry by RIM is its keyboard.

"If there's going to be a wow factor, a statement, it's going to be the keyboard."

A touch-screen phone by RIM could still appeal to business users because the company is known for its secure and direct delivery of e-mail, Segan said.